There’ll be plenty of Liverpool fans rushing to back bwin.com’s 4/1 about the Reds retaining their Premier League top-four place this term, after Daniel Sturridge marked his return from a nightmare five-month spell out injured with a goal from the bench against West Ham.
Brendan Rodgers’ side were in the bottom half of the table and seemingly down and out domestically for the season following a 3-1 loss at Crystal Palace in November, but just one 90-minute defeat in 18 all-competition fixtures since has turned their tanker around.
Liverpool are now seventh, a mere four points behind fourth-placed Southampton having won five of their past six top-flight matches, and with last season’s second-highest scorer in the division back in the fold Rodgers and co will be expected to kick on.
However, as the graphic below indicates it would be folly for the Northern Irishman to place all his eggs in one brittle, Sturridge-shaped basket:
The Birmingham native’s tally of 37 Liverpool goals since signing from Chelsea two years ago is remarkable considering he has only turned out 53 times, but it’s clear that the Reds can ill-afford another Sturridge knock.
After securing a respectable six points from their first three fixtures of the 2014/15 Premier League campaign against Saints, Spurs and champions Manchester City with Sturridge in the side, the Reds didn’t manage another victory for four matches.
That came in the form of a nervy 2-1 win over West Brom at Anfield following losses to Aston Villa, who have been largely useless since, and West Ham, plus a 1-1 draw at home to Everton.
Were another Sturridge absence to occur this term, which must rank as around an even-money shot given his current rate of injuries, Rodgers holds little in reserve to fill the void.
Departing captain Steven Gerrard and England youngster Raheem Sterling are the club’s joint-top scorers in the league this season with just five apiece, and the pair have managed only four between them in Liverpool’s past nine top-flight outings.
Cotton wool, anyone?